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Wolverines fight past Bethel to reach BRC championship game

Before this season began, Polk County Middle girls basketball coach Brian Taylor offered a simple motto for the Wolverines to follow.

One Team, One Goal, the goal being a Blue Ridge Conference championship.

Polk Middle now just needs One Win to make that target a reality.

The Wolverines outlasted Bethel Middle 29-26 Monday in the semifinals of the BRC basketball tournament, delighting a home crowd with a victory in a nailbiter in which neither team ever led by more than five points.

Polk Middle (12-2) will travel to Macon Middle for Wednesday’s championship game. That game will be played at 4:30 p.m. The two teams met in the first game of the season, also at Macon, with the Panthers winning.

The Wolverines took the lead in Monday’s intense back-and-forth thriller late in the second quarter and never gave it up, though Bethel (10-4) made Polk County work for every point.

The Blue Demons trailed by four entering the fourth quarter, but Ashtyn Frady drilled a long 3-pointer to make it a 22-21 Polk lead with 5:03 left. The Wolverines still led by one when Polk’s Sara Wilson and DeAsia Green hit back-to-back baskets to make it 28-23 with 1:19 remaining.

Bethel, though, pulled with two at 28-26 with 15 seconds left and had possession of the ball with 11 seconds remaining, but a turnover while in transition squelched that threat. Polk’s Olivia Overholt hit one of two free throws with five seconds remaining, and Bethel’s last-second desperation 3-pointer sailed wide.

“We stayed composed at the end,” Taylor said. “They were very aggressive and very handsy and a very fine team. They were well coached.

“We didn’t get the ball inside like I wanted. We didn’t get a lot of easy buckets. But everybody played well and I’m proud of how everybody played defense.”

Frady and Overholt waged a shootout in the first period, with Frady burying two 3-pointers and Overholt hitting three jumpers, all in a span of 58 seconds, as the teams ended the quarter in a 9-9 deadlock.

Bethel took a 13-9 lead early in the second period, but Tori Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the wing, then added a free throw moments later to tie the game. Overholt, battling a box-and-one defense most of the game, added three more free throws in the final minute to give Polk County a 16-13 halftine lead.

Lauren Dotson opened the second half with a rebound and basket to give Polk its biggest lead, 18-13. The Wolverines kept the lead at five until a late Bethel free throw made it 22-18 entering the fourth quarter.

Overholt finished with 17 points, with Thompson adding six. Dotson, Green and Wilson each finished with two.

“It was another close ball game that we found a way to win,” Taylor said. “That’s a credit to the girls for never giving up.”

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